Tiffany Gooch, Torstar News Service
December 10, 2017
Black activists from across Canada gathered in Toronto last week, to nurture relationships and amplify great ideas — which significantly strengthens their work.
Last week at the Toronto Reference Library in Toronto, hundreds of Black Canadian leaders, policy wonks, media personalities, academics, activists, business professionals and artists aligned for celebrations and strategic planning sessions at the inaugural National Black Canadians Summit in recognition of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent.
Trailblazers and change makers gathered from across the country to discuss democratic engagement, access to affordable housing and shelter, Black ownership and wealth, community safety, access to justice, education, mental health, migration and inclusion, media representation, arts and Black identity.
The event was hosted as a partnership between the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and newly founded Federation of Black Canadians.
It felt more like a family reunion than a conference.
Jean, Canada’s former Governor General, was a gracious host. She brought the Canadian Black community together in a way only a diplomat could. Floating through the library, she shared special moments with each participant, engaged fully in the strategic planning sessions, and delivered a fiery keynote speech.
She shared stories about her month-long decision-making process to accept the appointment as the 27th Governor General of Canada. She wanted to ensure each role she took on was one from which she could initiate meaningful change. She later spoke of the culturally rich and proud revolutionary history of Haiti, “More than resilience, I call it resistance.”
This was an important moment for Black political organization in Canada.
South of the border Donald Trump continues to launch attacks on Black athletes, media personalities, and civic leaders. Openly supporting Roy Moore in his Senate race, who stated in September that America was last great, “ … at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery … Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”
This week Democratic representatives John Lewis and Bennie G. Thompson organized a boycott around Trump’s planned attendance to the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The White House press secretary seemed to forget that Rep. John Lewis himself is a storied civil rights hero having led and participated in peaceful protests alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. since his time as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She had the audacity to lecture on respect for the legacy of the movement.